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Jailed Egyptian photojournalist gets the 2018 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize

Jailed Egyptian photojournalist Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, will be awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize in recognition of his contribution to the defense of press freedom.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law. Image: Mahmoud Abou Zeid‏ (@ShawkanZeid)

As president of the jury to select the 2018 recipient Rappler CEO Maria Ressa said the rollback on freedom around the world is visible.

"We want to tell him the world hasn't forgotten him, and we hope that his courage and steadfast adherence to his profession remains a guiding light to journalists around the world," Maria Ressa said.

Abu Zeid has been detained since August 2013. Egyptian authorities pounced on him after demonstrations held against the coup which ousted democratically elected Mohammed Morsi.

On August 14 security forces used armored personnel carriers (APCs), bulldozers, ground forces, and snipers, police and army personnel to crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters in Rab’a al-Adawiya Square in the Nasr City district, eastern Cairo.

A Human Rights Watch report said the streets and public squares of Egypt were "awash with blood" during the period. At least 817 were killed when security officials opened fire on pro-Morsi protesters who had camped in a sit in for 45 days.

“The evidence we examined includes on-site investigations at each of the protest sites during or immediately after the attacks were underway, interviews with over 200 witnesses, including protesters, doctors, journalists, and local residents, and review of physical evidence,” the report said.

UNESCO’s global commemorations for World Press Freedom Day will be hosted in Accra, Ghana. It will be a fourth return to African soil since the 1991 Windhoek Declaration on media pluralism and independence.

The founding of World Press Freedom Day is credited to African journalists who attended a Unesco seminar held from April 29 to May 3 1991 on the independence of the press in Namibia.

The declaration described the plight of journalists in Africa, at the time at least 17 journalists, editors or publishers were detained for doing their job.

Eastern Africa regional director of ARTICLE 19 Henry Maina, said in Africa an “independent, pluralistic and free press” as envisioned by the declaration is far from being realised.

“Politicians still want to control the breadth and depth of coverage given to issues. They do this through political edicts, deployment of state advertising, complacency when cronies intimidate and attack journalists, and the forced closure of media houses,” Maina said.


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